Bushwick, Brooklyn

For the upcoming American film, see Bushwick (film).
Neighborhood of Brooklyn

Knickerbocker Avenue, a main shopping street south of Maria Hernandez Park
Country  United States
State  New York
City New York City
Borough Brooklyn
  Total 3.38 km2 (1.305 sq mi)
Population (2010)[2][2]
  Total 129,239
  Density 38,000/km2 (99,000/sq mi)
  White 8.0%
  Black 16.8%
  Hispanic 69.9%
  Asian 1.8%
  Other 3.4%
  Median income $33,933
ZIP codes 11206, 11207, 11221, 11237

Bushwick is a working-class neighborhood in the northern part of the New York City borough of Brooklyn. The neighborhood, historically a community of Germanic immigrants and their descendants, has been predominantly Hispanic in the late 20th century. The neighborhood, formerly Brooklyn's 18th Ward, is now part of Brooklyn Community Board 4. It is policed by the NYPD's 83rd Precinct and is represented in the New York City Council as part of Districts 34 and 37.[3][4][5]

Bushwick shares a border with Ridgewood, Queens, to the northeast, and is bound by the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Williamsburg to the northwest; East New York and the cemeteries of Highland Park to the southeast; Brownsville to the south; and Bedford-Stuyvesant to the southwest.[6] It is served by ZIP codes 11206, 11207, 11221, and 11237.[7] Bushwick was once an independent town and has undergone various territorial changes throughout its history.


A community district/community board map of Brooklyn, highlighting the location of Bushwick in red

Neighborhoods in New York do not have official boundaries; informal boundaries are often contested, and this has been the case with Bushwick. However, the boundaries of Bushwick are often given as those of Brooklyn Community Board 4, which is delineated by Flushing Avenue on the north, Broadway on the southwest, the border with Queens to the northeast, and the Cemetery of the Evergreens on the southeast.

The industrial area north of Flushing Avenue, east of Bushwick Avenue, and south of Grand Street is also commonly included in Bushwick, occasionally with the modifier "Industrial Bushwick".[8][9]



Puerto Rican flags wave above a side street in Bushwick.

Bushwick's population in 2010 was 129,239.[2][2] 38.9% of that population was foreign born.[10] Though an ethnic neighborhood, Bushwick's population is, for a New York City neighborhood, relatively heterogeneous, scoring a 0.5 on the Furman Center's racial diversity index, making it the city's 35th most diverse neighborhood in 2007. Most residents are Latinos from the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico and from the Dominican Republic, but more recent years have seen an increase in native-born Americans as well as other Latino groups, particularly immigrants from Mexico and El Salvador. In 2008 the neighborhood's median household income was $28,802. 32% of the population falls under the poverty line, making Bushwick the 7th most impoverished neighborhood in New York City. Over 75% of children in the neighborhood are born in poverty.[11] Only 40.3% of students in Bushwick read at grade level, making it the 49th most literate neighborhood in the city in 2007. 58.2% of students do math at grade level in Bushwick, 41st in the city. In 2007, Bushwick averaged 25 felonies per 1,000 persons, making it the 25th most felonious of the city's 55 community districts.[10]

Bushwick is the largest hub of Brooklyn's Hispanic-American community, although Sunset Park is also very large. Like other neighborhoods in New York City, Bushwick's Hispanic population is mainly Puerto Rican and Dominican, with a sizable South American population as well. As nearly 70% of Bushwick's population is Hispanic, residents have created many businesses to support their various national and distinct traditions in food and other items. The neighborhood's major commercial streets are Knickerbocker Avenue, Myrtle Avenue, Wyckoff Avenue, and Broadway.

Bushwick North

Based on data from the 2010 United States Census, the population of Bushwick North was 57,138, an increase of 1,045 (1.9%) from the 56,093 counted in 2000. Covering an area of 570.78 acres (230.99 ha), the neighborhood had a population density of 100.1 inhabitants per acre (64,100/sq mi; 24,700/km2).[2]

The racial makeup of the neighborhood was 10.7% (6,098) White, 9.7% (5,533) African American, 0.1% (82) Native American, 6.0% (3,417) Asian, 0.0% (11) Pacific Islander, 0.7% (380) from other races, and 1.0% (582) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 71.8% (41,035) of the population.[12]

Bushwick South

Based on data from the 2010 United States Census, the population of Bushwick South was 72,101, an increase of 7,484 (11.6%) from the 64,617 counted in 2000. Covering an area of 923.64 acres (373.78 ha), the neighborhood had a population density of 78.1 inhabitants per acre (50,000/sq mi; 19,300/km2).[2]

The racial makeup of the neighborhood was 9.5% (6,819) White, 28.1% (20,281) African American, 0.2% (155) Native American, 2.4% (1,734) Asian, 0.0% (21) Pacific Islander, 0.4% (268) from other races, and 1.1% (809) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 58.3% (42,014) of the population.[12]

Puerto Rican and Dominican Community

As mentioned in the section before, Bushwick as well as neighboring East New York are the center for the Hispanic community in Brooklyn.[13] This history dates back to the post World War II period, when at that time, Bushwick was still a predominantly Irish and Italian American community, when the great migration of Puerto Ricans lead to the growth of enclaves in Brooklyn, East Harlem, the Upper West Side and the Bronx. Originally, Puerto Ricans were located in neighboring Williamsburg, also known as Los Sures, due to the proximity to jobs at the now defunct Domino Sugar Refinery as well as the Brooklyn Navy Yard, but expanded their enclave further into Brooklyn.[14][15] The sounds of Salsa, corner bodegas and Latin cuisine proliferate the dynamic of the Bushwick community.[16] It is the largest concentration of Hispanic Americans in the entire borough, followed closely behind by Sunset Park. Politically, Bushwick is part of New York's 7th congressional district and is represented in Congress by Puerto Rican born Nydia Velázquez, whose office is in neighboring Williamsburg as well as in Downtown Brooklyn.[17] Nydia Velázquez was the very first woman of Hispanic and Puerto Rican descent to be ever elected to the United States Congress. Bushwick was the birthplace of Rosie Perez, of Puerto Rican descent; best known for her role in In Living Color and on The View , as well as for making her own documentary Yo Soy Boricua, Pa'Que Tu Lo Sepas!.[18] Rosie Perez as well as Jackie Gleason have their faces painted in a mural at the NYPD's 83rd Precinct in Bushwick.[19] Bushwick is also the childhood home of Hollywood actor Rick Gonzalez.[20] The Williamsburg and Bushwick communities are home to their own local Puerto Rican Day Parade .[21] The parade board usually meets at the Orocovis Social Club, located off Myrtle Avenue. A popular place with the Hispanic community is La Isla Restaurant, located off Myrtle Avenue and Knickerbocker, where Puerto Rican and Dominican cuisine and flavors keep the restaurant packed at all hours of the day.[22][23][24] On the corner of Broadway, Flushing Avenue and Graham Avenue, where Bushwick, Williamsburg and Bedford–Stuyvesant meet, in the shadow of Woodhull Medical Center, Graham Avenue becomes the Avenue of Puerto Rico.[25] Located here is a campus of Boricua College and a branch of Puerto Rico based Popular Community Bank. This territory is disputed with local residents claiming that it falls within Bushwick itself, while others claim that it is in fact Williamsburg. Make the Road New York, a Latino community group also has a chapter in the neighborhood.[26] So important is the activism of Latinos in the community that in 2016, presidential candidate Bernie Sanders campaigned in Bushwick order to win over Hispanic votes.[27][28] Furthermore, a web show, East Willy B was created to display the struggles of the local Latino community. Another infamous spot is the Kikiriki Vivero, located on Myrtle Avenue, a Puerto Rican style butcher shop that sells live poultry, and is notable for its multi-color neon light signs.[29] In both the New York State Senate and City Council Bushwick is represented by Latinos, Martin Malave Dilan of Puerto Rican descent in the State Senate and Antonio Reynoso of Dominican American descent. in City Council.[30][31] In addition to this Diana Reyna, who formerly represented the area in City Council went on to become deputy borough President of Brooklyn, under Eric Adams.[16]


Row houses in alternating cream, yellow, and gray brick, on Weirfield Street

Bushwick's diverse housing stock includes six-family apartment buildings and two- and three-family townhouses. The median age of the housing stock is 76 years. Over 91% of housing units are within a quarter mile of a park, and over 97% of housing units are within half a mile of a subway. Bushwick is also home to many public housing projects, that house many lower income residents and are run by the New York City Housing Authority, including the Bushwick Houses, Hope Gardens which has many subsections, as well as Borinquen Plaza, The Palmetto Gardens and Bushwick II just to name a couple.[32][33]

Median rent in 2007 was $795, the 40th-highest in the city. About one in six rental units is subsidized, and greater than one in three units is rent regulated. 4% of renters live in severely overcrowded conditions. Vacant land fills 4.1% of Bushwick, rating it the 21st most vacant neighborhood in the city.

In 2007, the neighborhood had an 18.7% homeownership rate, though roughly 1 in 20 owners of 1–4 unit buildings received a notice of foreclosure.[10]

Between 1990 and 2014, Bushwick has seen a 44% increase in average rent costs, the fourth highest rise in New York City.[34]


Bushwick township

In 1638, the Dutch West India Company secured a deed from the local Lenape people for the Bushwick area, and Peter Stuyvesant chartered the area in 1661, naming it Boswijck, meaning "little town in the woods" or "heavy woods" in 17th-century Dutch.[35][36] Its area included the modern-day communities of Bushwick, Williamsburg, and Greenpoint. Bushwick was the last of the original six Dutch towns of Brooklyn to be established within New Netherland.

The community was settled, though unchartered, on February 16, 1660, on a plot of land between the Bushwick and Newtown Creeks[35] by fourteen French and Huguenot settlers, a Dutch translator named Peter Jan De Witt,[37] and one of the original eleven slaves brought to New Netherland, Franciscus the Negro, who had worked his way to freedom.[38][39] The group centered their settlement on a church located near today's Bushwick and Metropolitan Avenues. The major thoroughfare was Woodpoint Road, which allowed farmers to bring their goods to the town dock.[40] This original settlement came to be known as Het Dorp by the Dutch, and, later, Bushwick Green by the British. The English would take over the six towns three years later and unite them under Kings County in 1683.

Many of Bushwick's Dutch records were lost after its annexation by Brooklyn in 1854.[41] Contemporary reports differ on the reason: T. W. Field writes that "a nice functionary of the [Brooklyn] City Hall ... contemptuously thrust them into his waste-paper sacks",[42] while Eugene Armbruster claims that the movable bookcase containing the records "was coveted by some municipal officer, who turned its contents upon the floor".[43]

At the turn of the 19th century, Bushwick consisted of four villages: Green Point, Bushwick Shore[44] (later known as Williamsburg), Bushwick Green, and Bushwick Crossroads (at the spot where today's Bushwick Avenue turns southeast at Flushing Avenue).[45]

Bushwick's first major expansion occurred after it annexed the New Lots of Bushwick, a hilly upland originally claimed by Native Americans in the first treaties they signed with European colonists granting the settlers rights to the lowland on the water. After the second war between the natives and the settlers broke out, the natives fled, leaving the area to be divided among the six towns in Kings County. Bushwick had the prime location to absorb its new tract of land in a contiguous fashion. New Bushwick Lane (Evergreen Avenue), a former Native American trail, was a key thoroughfare for accessing this new tract, which was suitable mostly for potato and cabbage agriculture.[46] This area is bounded roughly by Flushing Avenue to the north and Evergreen Cemetery to the south. In the 1850s, the New Lots of Bushwick area began to develop. References to the town of Bowronville, a new neighborhood contained within the area south of Lafayette Avenue and Stanhope Street, began to appear in the 1850s.[47][48]

The area known as Bushwick Shore was so called for about 140 years. Bushwick residents called Bushwick Shore "the Strand", another term for "beach".[49] Bushwick Creek, in the north, and Cripplebush, a region of thick, boggy shrubland extending from Wallabout Creek to Newtown Creek, in the south and east, cut Bushwick Shore off from the other villages in Bushwick. Farmers and gardeners from the other Bushwick villages sent their goods to Bushwick Shore to be ferried to New York City for sale at a market located at the present-day Grand Street. Bushwick Shore's favorable location close to New York City led to the creation of several farming developments. Originally a 13-acre (53,000 m2) development within Bushwick Shore, Williamsburgh rapidly expanded during the first half of the 19th century and eventually seceded from Bushwick to form its own independent city in 1852.[50] Both Bushwick and Williamsburgh were annexed to the City of Brooklyn in 1854.[41]

Early industry

When Bushwick was founded, it was primarily an area for farming food and tobacco. As Brooklyn and New York City grew, factories that manufactured sugar, oil, and chemicals were built. The inventor Peter Cooper built a glue manufacturing plant, his first factory, in Bushwick. Immigrants from western Europe joined the original Dutch settlers. The Bushwick Chemical Works, at Metropolitan Avenue and Grand Street on the English Kills channel, was another early industry among the lime, plaster, and brick works, coal yards, and other factories that developed along English Kills, which was dredged and made an important commercial waterway.[51] In October 1867, the American Institute awarded Bushwick Chemical Works the first premium for commercial acids of the greatest purity and strength.[52] The Bushwick Glass Company, later known as Brookfield Glass Company, established itself in 1869, when a local brewer sold it to James Brookfield.[53] It made a variety of bottles and jars.

Ulmer Brewery

In the 1840s and 1850s, a majority of the immigrants were German, which became the dominant population. Bushwick established a considerable brewery industry, including "Brewer's Row"—14 breweries operating in a 14-block area—by 1890.[54] Thus, Bushwick was dubbed the "beer capital of the Northeast". The last Bushwick brewery closed its doors in 1976.[55]

As late as 1883, Bushwick maintained open farming land east of Flushing Avenue.[56] A synergy developed between the brewers and the farmers during this period, as the dairy farmers collected spent grain and hops for cow feed. The dairy farmers sold milk and other dairy products to consumers in Brooklyn. Both industries supported blacksmiths, wheelwrights, and feed stores along Flushing Avenue.[57]

Railway hub

Brownstones and apartment buildings on Bushwick Avenue, near Suydam Street
Brick row houses on Weirfield Street, a style that spreads into Ridgewood, Queens

In 1868, the Long Island Rail Road built the Bushwick Branch from its hub in Jamaica via Maspeth to Bushwick Terminal, at the intersection of Montrose and Bushwick avenues,[58] allowing easy movement of passengers, raw materials, and finished goods. Routes also radiated to Flushing, Queens.

The first elevated railway ("el") in Brooklyn, known as the Lexington Avenue Elevated, opened in 1885. Its eastern terminus was at the edge of Bushwick, at Gates Avenue and Broadway.[59] This line was extended southeastward into East New York shortly thereafter. By the end of 1889, the Broadway Elevated and the Myrtle Avenue Elevated were completed, enabling easier access to Downtown Brooklyn and Manhattan and the rapid residential development of Bushwick from farmland.

With the success of the brewing industry and the presence of the els, another wave of European immigrants settled in the neighborhood. Also, parts of Bushwick became affluent. Brewery owners and doctors commissioned mansions along Bushwick and Irving Avenues at the turn of the 20th century. New York mayor John Francis Hylan kept a townhouse on Bushwick Avenue during this period.[60] Bushwick homes were designed in the Italianate, Neo Greco, Romanesque Revival, and Queen Anne styles by well-known architects. Bushwick was a center of culture, with several Vaudeville-era playhouses, including the Amphion Theatre, the nation's first theatre with electric lighting.[61] The wealth of the neighborhood peaked between World War I and World War II, even when events such as Prohibition and the Great Depression were taking place. After World War I, the German enclave was steadily replaced by a significant proportion of Italian Americans. By 1950, Bushwick was one of New York City's largest Italian American neighborhoods, although some German Americans remained.[62]

St Barbara's Roman Catholic Church

The Italian community was composed almost entirely of Sicilians, mostly from the Palermo, Trapani, and Agrigento provinces in Sicily. In particular, the Sicilian townsfolk of Menfi, Santa Margherita di Belice, Trapani, Castelvetrano, and many other paesi had their own clubs (clubbu) in the area. Il Circolo di Santa Margherita di Belice, founded in Bushwick, remains the oldest operating Sicilian organization in the United States. These clubs often started as mutual benevolence associations or funeral societies but transformed along with the needs of their communities from the late 1800s until the 1960s, when many began to fade away. St. Joseph Patron of the Universal Church Roman Catholic Parish was the hub of the Sicilian community, and held five feasts during the year, complete with processions of saints or Our Lady of Trapani. St. Joseph opened in 1923 because the Italian community had been rapidly growing in Bushwick since 1900. This Sicilian community first was centered in Our Lady of Pompeii parish on Siegel Street in Williamsburgh. But as industry expanded along Flushing Avenue, the Sicilian population expanded with the growing need for labor by factory operators. St. Leonard's parish was the large German Catholic parish in the area, but the Italian community was not welcome there and was thus compelled to open its own parish. St. Leonard's closed in 1973. St. Joseph's is now a large and vibrant Latino parish run by the Scalabrini Order of priests, an Italian missionary order that caters to migrants.

Postwar transition

The demographic transition of Bushwick after World War II was similar to that of many Brooklyn neighborhoods. The U.S. Census records show that the neighborhood's population was almost 90% white in 1960, but dropped to less than 40% white by 1970.[63] These newer residents tended to be poorer than their longstanding counterparts. As middle-class families fled Bushwick, working-class African American and Puerto Rican and other Caribbean American families moved into homes in the southeastern edge of the neighborhood, that closest to Eastern Parkway. By the mid-1950s, migrants began settling into central Bushwick. A strong proclivity among these new residents to homeownership and block associations helped the neighborhood survive the economic and social distress of the 1970s.[63]

This change in demographics coincided with changes in the local economy. Rising energy costs, advances in transportation, and the invention of the steel can encouraged beer companies to move out of New York City. As breweries in Bushwick closed, the neighborhood's economic base eroded. Discussions of urban renewal took place in the 1960s, but never materialized, resulting in the demolition of many residential buildings with nothing new built in its place. Another contribution to the change in the socioeconomic profile of the neighborhood was the John Lindsay administration's policy of raising rent for welfare recipients. Since these tenants now brought higher rents than ordinary tenants would pay on the open market, Bushwick landlords actively began to fill vacant units with such tenants. By the mid-1970s, half of Bushwick's residents were on public assistance.[64]

According to the New York Times, "In a five-year period in the late 1960's and early 70's, the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn was transformed from a neatly maintained community of wood houses into what often approached a no man's land of abandoned buildings, empty lots, drugs and arson."[65]

Blackout: riots and looting

On the night of July 13, 1977, a major blackout occurred in New York City. Arson, looting, and vandalism occurred in low-income neighborhoods across the city. Bushwick saw some of the most devastating damage and losses. While local owners in the predominantly Puerto Rican Knickerbocker Avenue and Graham Avenue shopping districts were able to defend their stores with force, suburban owners with stores on the Broadway shopping district saw their shops looted and burned. Twenty-seven stores, some of which were of mixed use, along Broadway were burned (Goodman 104). Looters (and residents who bought from looters) saw the blackout as an opportunity to get what they otherwise could not afford. Fires spread to many residential buildings as well. After the riots were over and the fires were put out, residents saw "some streets that looked like Brooklyn Heights, and others that looked like Dresden in 1945" (Goodman 181): unsafe dwellings and empty lots among surviving buildings. The business vacancy rate on Broadway reached 43% in the wake of the riots.[66]

Bushwick was now left without a commercial retail hub. After the blackout, more middle-class residents who could afford to leave did so, in some cases abandoning their homes. New immigrants continued to move to the area, many of whom were from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and, more recently, Central America. However, apartment renovation and new construction did not keep pace with the demolition of unsafe buildings, forcing overcrowded conditions at first. As buildings came down, the vacant lots made parts of the neighborhood look and feel desolate, and more residents left. With a lack of job opportunities, Bushwick became an epicenter for the illegal drug trade. Author Jonathan Mahler described the social and economic hardships of Bushwick after the blackout in his book "Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning", explaining how the majority of neighborhood residence were living on less than $4,000 a year, relying on some form of public assistance. The neighborhood was a hotbed of poverty and crime by the 1980s. During this period, the Knickerbocker Avenue shopping district was nicknamed "The Well" for its seemingly unending supply of drugs.[67] In the 1990s, it remained a poor and relatively dangerous area, with 77 murders, 80 rapes, and 2,242 robberies in 1990.[68]


Irving Square Park
Jefferson Street

Starting in the mid-2000s, the City and State of New York began pouring resources into Bushwick, primarily through a program called the Bushwick Initiative. The Bushwick Initiative was a two-year pilot program spearheaded by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council (Ridgewood Bushwick), and the Office of Assemblyman Vito Lopez. The program's goal was to improve the lives of Bushwick residents in the twenty-three square blocks surrounding Maria Hernandez Park through various housing and quality-of-life programs. The Bushwick Initiative's objectives included addressing deteriorated housing conditions, increasing economic development opportunities, reducing drug dealing activities, and enhancing the quality of life in the 23 square blocks surrounding Maria Hernandez Park.[69] A dog park was completed in Maria Hernandez Park in October 2012.

A flourishing artist community, which has existed in Bushwick for decades, now is a main demographic of Bushwick; dozens of art studios and galleries are scattered throughout the neighborhood. There are several open studios programs that help the public visit artist studios and galleries[71] and a number of websites dedicated to promoting neighborhood art and events. Bushwick artists display their works in galleries and private spaces throughout the neighborhood. The borough's first and only trailer park, a 20-person art collective established by founder, Hayden Cummings[72] and ZenoRadio's Baruch Herzfeld [73][74] for creatives to reside and work was established within a former nut roasting factory.[75]




Brooklyn Public Library, Bushwick Branch

Community-based organizations


Major subway services running through the area include the J Z trains on the BMT Jamaica Line, the M train on the BMT Myrtle Avenue Line, and the L train on the BMT Canarsie Line. The Myrtle–Wyckoff Avenues bus and subway hub was renovated into a state-of-the-art transportation center in 2007. Bus lines serving Bushwick include the B13, B26, B38, B52, B54, B60

During the 1960s, under the direction of Robert Moses, there were plans to build an extension of I-78 through Bushwick, to connect lower Manhattan with the southern shore of Long Island.[93] The extension was to be called the Bushwick Expressway, but was never built, due to then Mayor John V. Lindsay's concerns that traffic leaving Manhattan should bypass it via the Verrazano Bridge.[93]

Parks and recreation

Maria Hernandez Park

All parks are operated by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.


Public School 123, Irving Avenue
EBC High School for Public Service
Saint Elizabeth Seton School

Bushwick has a robust educational infrastructure of thirty-three public and private, primary and secondary schools.[102] This includes 14 public elementary schools, one charter school, four parochial schools, seven high schools, and one secondary school.

High schools

Combined middle and high schools

Notable people



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Coordinates: 40°41′39″N 73°55′07″W / 40.69417°N 73.91861°W / 40.69417; -73.91861

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